Here, she dishes on everything from her bodacious fro to her experiences working with Beyoncé!
Curly Nikki: Tell us your Hair Story!
I come from a family of stylists; my mom and sister are beauticians, my dad is a barber. My mom started relaxing my hair when I was 10, and whether it was pressed or relaxed, it always looked nice and healthy. I was very spoiled when it came to my hair and didn't have to think about it much.
Later on, I began wearing dookie braids, extensions and micros. This quickly became very expensive and was ridiculously time consuming. About 8-9 years ago, I took out the dookie braids and never looked back, lol. I washed it, colored it (big red chunks), and walked out of the salon. At this time, I still had some relaxed ends... they grew out over the next year or so. When I walked out of the salon that day I received a ton of compliments... from friends, family and strangers. People loved it! I had no idea it was going to be so cool -- I even got more work! Everyone wanted the girl with the big afro and tattoos. So my journey to natural just sort of happened. It wasn't cool or in to have an afro then... I was just doing it for financial reasons. It worked out. One thing I've learned is that regardless of what I do to my hair, it's going to be a lot of maintenance.
CN: Have you always liked your curls? If not, how did you come to embrace your natural hair?
The texture of my hair is something I've always liked. I always got perms because it was what I was used to -- it's how I was raised. But when I went natural, I loved it and felt completely free.
CN: What is your current routine?
If I'm on the road, I have to wash it before every show. Two hours on stage leaves me completely drenched, and my hair shrunken and frizzy. So, the next day, before the show, I have to wash and style it again. Usually, I end up doing it about four times a week.
When I'm home, however, I only wash and style once or twice a week.
When I say wash, I mean conditioner wash. I no longer use shampoo. I use conditioner to cleanse, and a different conditioner to detangle. I let it air dry half way, and finish it off with a blowdryer/diffuser to speed up drying time and add body and length.
I deep condition about once a month, but want to step it up to twice a month. I use cholesterol but look forward to trying some new products.
By the way, I always do my own hair. I stopped letting other people touch my hair when I went natural.
CN: What are your staple hair styles?
The afro is my staple style, but sometimes, I wear cornrows when I'm off... but those don't last very long because I end up having to do something work related and people always ask, "What happened to your big hair?" I'm thinking of trying twists because they're low maintenance and maybe I'll be able to keep my hands out of my head for a while.
CN: Must-have products?!
I'm always trying something new! I was using a lot of Carol's Daughter , but after a while I wasn't getting the results I wanted (especially for how much they cost). I do still enjoy the Khoret Amen Hair Oil, and plan to keep it in my rotation.
I'm really liking Oyin Handmade products. A lot of products claim to be all-natural, but to me, Oyin appears to be as natural as you can get -- no chemicals or preservatives. I use their honey hemp conditioner, their whipped pudding, the shine and define, head-to-toe wash (not shampoo) and frank juice herbal leave-in spray conditioner. Sometimes I use castor oil as a pre cleanse conditioner.
CN: What's the best thing about being naturally curly?
To be able to look in the mirror and know that it's all me -- it's all mine, it's all my texture! That is something to truly take pride in! My lifestyle is very natural, very holistic -- from the food I eat, to the products I use on my skin. It's been a part of me for so long that I don't even think about it anymore. It's freedom. I don't have to alter my hair or change it to be beautiful. My fro has gotten me way more work, more confidence, and more compliments than I ever received when I was wearing the extensions and braids.
CN: What projects are you currently working on?
I just got back from tour two days ago, so I'm not trying to work on anything right now! I plan to take good care of myself, experiment with my hair some, and take some time to travel. I want to go back to Brazil for a few months. I really want to get into the culture, the language and the music there. I hope to deepen my practice in yoga, and just enjoy my life. Not that I don't enjoy being on the road, but sometimes it doesn't allow me to do things I truly love.
CNReader: Tell us about your yoga journey and what inspired your holistic lifestyle.
I've been spiritual and drawn to a holistic lifestyle since I was very young. My parents didn't raise me that way -- I was raised to believe in God, and have good moral values, but my interest in a more natural way to live was all me. I grew up in a typical black family -- eating chitterlings, fried chicken, pigs feet, etc. At a very early age, I became interested in eating cleaner and healthier.
In 1998 I took my first yoga class. I felt clear, I felt energized... I felt HIGH! I felt like I had literally sniffed or smoked something, lol. I knew that it was something I wanted to incorporate into my lifestyle. About six years ago, I took a class to become certified to teach yoga -- I studied meditation, the philosophy, Sanskrit, the whole history of yoga. I then taught yoga for a year. I was happy and at peace, and had no interest in returning to my life on the road, I didn't think I'd ever pick a guitar back up! Then, I got the call from Beyoncé. Obviously, I couldn't pass that one up! I've been with B for the past 4 years, but I still practice yoga daily. It works well with my busy lifestyle and helps to keep me energized and balanced.
CNReader: How long have you been playing the guitar? Who or what inspired you to play?
I've been playing since I was 12 years old... so, for a while now. No one person in particular inspired me, it was actually the music my older sister and brother were listening to -- Earth Wind and Fire, and the Isley Brothers.
CNReader: Your tattoos are dope! What moved you to get them?
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, but most guess that I'm from NYC or California. I've always been very different, very artistic. I've always thought tattoos were nice, and I told my parents I wanted one. They took me to the parlor and I asked the artists tons of questions. I have sensitive skin and I wanted to make sure I'd be able to tolerate the new addition to my body. I received my first tattoo at 17, and didn't get another until many years later.
I have a Chinese Dragon, a scorpion (my sign), a female samurai (strength), a Japanese coy fish (peace and tranquility), among others. One arm is covered in Japanese imagery and in full color. The other is in black and white and consists of Polynesian tribal tattoos. It's inspired by creativity and art, and images and ideas I thought were beautiful and meaningful.
CNReader: How do the different nationalities react to your fro when you're overseas?
I wear my hair out overseas when I'm touring, or in a big bun on the top of my head. People respond the same, no matter where I am-- they want to touch it, they say, "It's so cool!" I'm talking people of all ages; men, women, even those who can't speak English will point and gesture at my hair and smile. It's a hit worldwide!
CNReader: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself living a natural and peaceful lifestyle, whether I'm teaching yoga, playing guitar, or running a cafe. I wouldn't be surprised if I were somewhere living in the mountains, completely off the map, growing my own food and generating my own electricity!
CNReader: How did you get your start with Beyoncé? What has it been like working side-by-side with her?!
In 2006, Beyoncé did a worldwide press release saying she was looking to form an all-female band. I was teaching yoga at the time and started to get phone calls and emails telling me I should go to the audition... I wasn't interested at all. My dad, who is a barber in Denver, called me late that night and said someone called the house there looking for me. He didn't know who Beyoncé was! I told him "No way. I'm teaching yoga and don't want to play music anymore." When I hung up the phone I felt bad and decided that I would go to the audition just for my dad. I went, got the gig and have been making history ever since. I'm infinitely grateful for the opportunity to inspire so many people (mainly women) across the globe.
As for working side-by-side with Beyoncé... she's at the top of her game, so I have to be too. I have learned and grown tremendously over the past four years. She is human as we all are, but I admire and respect her. She's nice and has many great qualities.